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Monday, March 24, 2008

Flower show exhibits - For children

As populous as Long Island is (over 7.5 million people making it the most populated island in any US state or territory), it doesn't have a flower show. When I was a young girl there was a big flower show every spring at Nassau Coliseum. Supposedly that show closed because of difficulties and expenses in setting up exhibits while working with local labor unions.

About six years ago Hofstra University (also an arboretum) decided to try to bring flower shows back to this area. While they had a perfect venue and a great location (right next to the Coliseum and near many highways), they did not have an advertising budget so the show dwindled in numbers each year until it closed. This is not a criticism of the management there, it's just how it was.

Four times I was the designer of their children's garden. The first year I had a budget of $15,000 and the second year a budget of $5,000 thanks to the generous donation of a private benefactor. The third year was the toughest, I shared $2,500 in materials from Lowes along with the federated club doing the flower show. I'd guess I got under $1,000 that time. The last year was slightly better, the $ amount from Lowes was less but I also was able to pull plant material that was coming in for the arboretum.

I learned quickly that what I wanted to design and what the school wanted to have were two different things. They wanted a draw for families with little children, and more than once I was told about how a local nursery did things with little bunnies and seeds in cups. Yet I was supposed to cover a large area! Also, my focus is on kids aged 8 to 15, a much harder group to grab and yet the age I want to get out in the garden and away from the TV/computer/electronic games.

These photos are from the third year, the toughest of them all. I had no hired help whatsoever in the set up. A friend of ours and my husband built the press box (shed) and my daughter Lauren worked two days with me. I put down the brick walkway myself, rolled out the sod, and built the characters on my own.

The theme was a musical garden. Since Hofstra hosts the big marching band festival every October, I used that as my musical focus. It didn't hurt that Lauren was in the high school marching band and we were able to borrow uniforms and flags.

A good portion of our budget was spent on copper pipes and connectors to build these stick figures.

I was allowed to choose things from the school's "junk yard area" and they hauled in a vehicle without an engine. Lauren did an amazing job painting it.

We had a tail gate party set up at the back of the truck. Many of the accessories were my own, my SUV was loaded down every day as I went there to set up. The cookies were our secret weapon, anybody who walked through our garden got a cookie :-)

Unfortunately the budget for plant material was almost non-existent. As grateful as I am to Lowes for their generous donation, a true plant geek would understand me when I say that it left much to be desired in choosing plant material.

Scrounging around the exhibit hall I found roll away stairs that became our bleachers. Clothing came right out of our dirty clothes hampers, were stuffed with newspaper & plants and went back in the hamper a week later.

The press box shed was a favorite idea of mine. Here at my house I have a shed like a cottage because I had little girls when we bought it. I was thinking that if I had boys, I'd like a shed that they'd like to play in. Wouldn't this be fun! We had a microphone inside the viewing window and an old blackboard so they could write on it.

The fencing was set up by a company that had a booth there. They were always the best part of working at the show and guess what? It's a white vinyl fence!

The public attendance that year was horrible. Only flower show people who had exhibits came to the show and most of them didn't have little children. The kids that did come though were wonderful. My daughters and their friends taught them how to spin color guard flags or helped them bang on the drums.

As a final shot, you can see my husband Don, my girls Lauren and Emily and me, sitting in our "bleachers". I had to make those tall signs at the end because we had absolutely no height at all in the exhibit.

I wish I could do that garden all over again with the right sized budget and plant material and a crew of workers.

Over the next week or two I'll post about the other three gardens working my way up to the best one.

1 comment:

Anna said...

This is too clever and very kid friendly. The amount of work you put in it is remarkable. I know how you feel not getting any help. I use to do the athletic banquets for my kids and no one showed up till it was time to eat! I love the jean planters on the bleachers. And who doesn't love a good tailgate party!! Great job! I look forward to seeing the progression to the best. I'm guessing that was the $15,000 budget!